The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Max Pauli: The Story of a Man's Life.
by Heinrich Hofmann.
Max finds a friend.
Hearts of men upon earth
Passers by turned to look at the two young men as they strolled arm in arm, so absorbed in their talk that they noticed nothing else, not even the Tyrian purple of the river under the setting sun. For any who believed that a young man with the purity of his youth and the beauty and promise of his manhood upon him is one of the fairest sights the world has to show, Max Pauli and his friend Rudolph Winndt, were worth more than a passing glance. Max was as we have seen him, only "more so," his countenance ingenuous, intelligent as hitherto, but stamped with character, that indefinable suggestion of mental history, of latent energy and purpose which distinguishes the man form the youth. The charm of Max's personality lay in the combination of the deference of tone and gesture belonging to well-ordered youth and that dignity of manhood which never sits so well as on the young man who knows how to wear it. Never think, dear young Exquisite, that a certain carriage of the elbows, adjustment of the eye-glass, are the proper credentials of manhood. This manly dignity is not to be had at less than full cost of thought, endeavour, sacrifice, moral struggle, earnest wrestle with the life problems of the hour. Max had shirked none of these, and, as he poured ardent words into the ear of his friend, his animated air, and the graceful pose so well indicating the deference and the confidence of gentle friendship, drew on him the envious regards of more world-worn men.
Max had at last found a friend, not a mere friend of association and circumstances, but the elect of his soul.
"You should see Winndt," said young Rumboldt more than once, "you and he are born for each other. He bothers himself about all these things, you know. I'm no good. When a fellow's afraid of getting out of his depth it's best to float like a cork."
If he were a coward, Rumboldt was a coward of generous soul, for he set himself to bring Pauli and Winndt together, though certain he should lose the first place in the regard of the friend he most valued. There is, however, some satisfaction in seeing your little schemes work, and this fell to Rumboldt. Never did two men fall into each other's arms, so to speak, as did those two. Another David and Jonathan, they clave to each other, and like that of the Bible heroes, theirs also was love at first sight. Physical contrast had something to do with the affection which united the friends. Max's charm consisted, as we have seen, in a union of almost feminine beauty and grace with the manliness expressed by his deep and penetrating voice. Winndt, on the contrary, was tall, square-shouldered, big-limbed, and approached as nearly as the softer German sentiment of life admits to the type of physique called "rugged" in England. Each took joy of that in the other which himself lacked. Max especially was buoyant as Ariel released from his pine prison. It was intoxicating to pour out all his soul to this friend who could give him thought for thought; to travel over the old well-beaten track in this company, for Winndt had been there before --more, he had reached higher ground, taken a wider survey, and was able to guide Max in that labour of orientation which sometimes falls so cruelly, with so deep a sense of wrong and injury, on young minds that the more feeble and cowardly do this despite to themselves --they forswear thinking evermore; they say, "What's the good? Thought is but a horse in a mill, a door on its hinges, going for ever and no advance. I'll none of it."
"I think it is not possible," Max wrote to his Uncle Fritz, "to be happier than I am in the friendship of Winndt. How you would love him! How you would rejoice in his scholarship, his philosophic mind, his genius, and, above all, in his modesty! Who is Winndt? you say. I must tell you the story from the beginning. You have not forgotten how I became acquainted with the Rumboldt family on my journey here. I have seen a good deal of Lieutenant Rumboldt, the son. I believe he loves me, assuredly, I love him; but it is rather that we admire our opposites than that we have much in common. When our talk touched on deeper things it was ever 'Ah, you must know Winndt.' And a month ago this kind Rumboldt arranged a little supper for three at the Hirsch Gardens. I tell you, my uncle, that which befel me was beyond all dreams of happy intercourse with which I had amused my loneliness in the Harzig days. How thoughts leapt to light, how words flowed! My uncle, have you ever known what it is to be as a sealed fountain, your thought chafing, boiling, raging against coverlid of stone, and then to have the cover lifted and the waters leap out high, sparkling, flashing in the sunlight? This is what Winndt has done for me. I am fully, entirely happy; my nature has no more needs. What a wonderful thing is life! A month ago I did not believe that such happy outflow was possible to me; and now, what if another, and another, and another should come and unseal another and another fount of happy being? What if we are made for such joyous ebullitions in a dozen, in a thousand, directions, and are only waiting for the magician able to break the seal of this or that spring of life? I 'hear' you smile. But you are wrong, uncle of mine. Truly I want no more. My cravings fro fellowship and comprehension are abundantly satisfied. But is life to be less and not more full of golden possibilities because I have found a friend? I will never believe it.
"But this new life--for it is no less-- is not without its own pains. Do you think life is a succession of births into higher lives, each with its birth-pangs? 'How the lad rambles! Does he expect me to leap from figure to figure like a clown at a circus?' I know, my uncle, mixed metaphors are an abomination; but tell me, thou wise man, who is to stop the flow of ideas from a happy mind? But I was telling you of the 'growing' pains Winndt has brought upon me. He is larger than I, and has given me a new conception of the virtuous life. How shall I express the difference? Virtue is still my first endeavour, and yet I build on a new basis. It is the difference between the absolute and the relative standpoint. My highest hope hitherto has been to become a virtuous man. The beauty of virtue was subjective to me. Like fortune, fame, scholarship, virtue was for me, if I could win her, an adornment, a garment for the perfect man. And now my friend has opened my eyes. virtue is no more a good in the sense in which we speak of our goods--our property. I am hers, not she is mine. She has absolute claim upon me, and her claim is appalling. Virtue, I now see, is to be sought for her own sake. The very desire after goodness is an offence against virtue, for is it not, in essence, selfish? Why should I be good? Who am I? My eyes have been opened. My whole thought and will and understanding must be possessed, dominated by virtue. There must be within a calm reign of goodness, every thought in subjection, no stir of the nerves, no ebb and flow of the emotions, but a cloudless, calm reign of law, under which the perfect man acts of necessity, producing virtuous acts as a pendulum ticks, his will winding up the clock, and his thoughts regulated and necessary as the revolution of the wheels.
"This is virtue--the virtuous life as my friend Winndt paints it. Do I find his ideal lovely? you ask. Yes, while he speaks. But even then I think it is my aesthetic sense that responds. My heart does not leap up; I have lost something. Is Winndt right when he says it is the base greed of virtue for my own uses? Anyway, Virtue, as he shows her--and who can doubt that he is right?--is beautiful, and cold as a marble bride. In her service you must have enormous self-compelling power of will. And I? My will inclines, desires, but is utterly powerless to regulate even the restless imaginings that sully the purity of my heart. I am cast down, no longer even emulous of virtue, but like the sadder, wiser child who cries no more for the moon.
"So you see, my uncle, I am living a dual life--wonderful happiness in my friend, and unspeakable wretchedness in myself. Do you know, I am sometimes convinced that there is no goodness in me at all. My virtue is all impulse--what Winndt frankly tells me is the mere play of nerves in a susceptible, sensitive nature. He says he loves me for this, and declares that he is far worse than I. But, oh, if you could see the difference! I am foolishly happy in his company, even in the thought of him. At other times I go about so anxious and distressed Kieger said to me the other day (laying his hand on my shoulder in the kindliest way), 'Is any of your family ill? No? You have something on your mind; confide in me. I think well of you, and will counsel you as if you were my son.' Was it not good of him? But what could I say? He is the last man in the world to whom I could confide spiritual perplexities. He is right; I am miserable. I am always looking inwards, and how can I but hate and fear that which I see? Every frail old man I meet who looks at peace with himself is an object of envy to me. A thousand times a day I wish myself in his place, though I should lose every pleasure of youth by the change. What of that, if I could be set free from the present struggle between passion and duty which is driving me mad!
"Forgive me for writing thus of 'I, I, I'; there is no one else to whom I can speak in the same way. You ask about the Kieger family. They are nice people, and it is interesting to watch their ways on Sundays, the only day we are admitted to the family table. We have droll scenes at times. Kieger himself is a very good talker, if you let him alone, and seems to enjoy this opportunity of saying what is in his mind. He talks a good deal to me, perhaps because I am new to the thought of this great town, and he is willing to instruct me. (There, now, is an insincerity--an example of what I loathe in myself. My real thought is that he thinks me best worth talking to. Why could I not say so frankly? Why, because it savours of conceit, and I cherish the conceit and cover it with a life. There, you have me; one example does as well as another.) But, about the Kiegers. Madame, who is an admirable housemother, and keeps us all in great order, is the most amusing contrast to her husband--he, dry, sententious, calm; she, vivacious and excitable--he, hating to answer questions; she, loving to ask them. This is the sort of thing that goes on:--
"She.--'Shall we go to Zollenspicken to-morrow?'
And so on. At last, 'I have told you already,' growls he; but if he had 'twas under his beard, for no one heard a word. But I should not have told you this tale; you will hardly know how much a lady Madame Kieger is, and how learned and handsome and good is her daughter; but the latter does not talk much. Is it that, for her, there is a great gulf fixed between the family of the master and his assistants?
"All this time I have not told you of Winndt more than that he is my friend; but for the rest, what matters? I have put it to my conscience, and, truly, I think it would be all the same to me that he were a journeyman baker if, which is hard to credit, a journeyman baker could be possessed of his highly cultivated, beautiful nature. As it is, he is the son of a leading Hamburg merchant, a family of eminence here. He is older than I, and his whole life has been spent in learning--from school to university, from university to foreign travel; he has seen the world, and now, though he is in his father's office, I believe he is really engaged in profound reading, with a view to a great philosophical work. But this is his secret. He has not even confided it to me; I only infer from stray hints. Are you perplexed, my uncle, as am I, to know what such a man should find in your worthless "Max?"
The Morning Gate of the Beautiful.
O, Attic shape! Fair attitude! With brede
Pauli's measure of pleasure was not quite full when he wrote thus to his uncle. A single friend satisfies a woman, a man likes to break his spear in friendly joust with half a dozen of his kind. Through Winndt, Max found himself welcomed into a set of the most thoughtful young men in Hamburg. They were gentle and genial, and rather tender with each other, as young men are, and Max had just the qualities to recommend him. They took to the young bookseller wonderfully, for his own sake as much as for Winndt's, and gave him the freedom of what what practically a literary Verein, for they read and wrote papers, and discussed--all delightful, and improving too, said Max of the frugal mind. Not until now did he develop the sense of purely literary enjoyment. He had always been a great reader, but then, to read for information or to clear up some troublesome question in the region of metaphysics was a widely different thing from reading with a view to literary appreciation, and such indirect thought culture as literature gives. This was Germany's Augustan age, a marvellously rich period of literary production, and the young men kept pace with the new books as they came out, and unconsciously formed themselves on the thought of Goethe and of Schiller. To be moulded on the "Lehrjare" and "Iphigenie" was good; but was it wholly good? Not unless you regard a certain degree of remoteness from current interests, and a critical temper of mind, as pure gains.
The French nation, for example, was no longer idealised and idolised by our hero as in the Harzig days. There were several reasons for this. In the first place Hamburg opened inviting arms to the political refugee; and the charm of gracious manners and the splendid power of unperturbed endurance exhibited by the ancienne noblesse--evidence that nobility was a personal quality, not a mere affair of circumstances and situation--told immensely in democratic Hamburg; and if the whole truth must be told, Max had hidden cravings for speech and touch with some one of those stately dames or beruffled cavaliers who moved in the city calm and urbane, their passing regard of this or that, somehow, a distinction to be noted by the watchful Hamburgers. Then again, so long as you believe that moral improvement and enlightenment of the understanding go hand in hand, a nation giving itself up to the guidance of philosophy is, necessarily, the most interesting spectacle under the sun. But life in a busy commercial centre, which is yet one of great mental activity, tends to raise grave questions. Men are pointed out to you whose theories are of the noblest, but whose lives are, alas! too open to unfriendly criticism. The doubt whether a more enlightened understanding can restore an unsound heart almost ceases to be a doubt; you incline to conviction, and "No" turns the scale.
Lastly, we all play more or less at the child's game of "follow my leader." Goethe's aloofness to the questions fo the hour was much commented upon and much condemned both by the philosophic and the patriotic Germans; but there was a third and more distinctly literary section of society in which his influence was supreme; and with the young men of this set it was rather the fashion to keep apart from the friction of thought, the bitterness and the unreasonableness apt to be engendered by vehement 'party' sympathies.
But all this time Winndt and Pauli talk, and we must hear what they say:--
"No, Pauli, you are, in a measure, right, and I am wrong; I have wished to tell you so for some time, but feared you might think I was performing a right-about-face movement, which is not the fact."
"Why, you have insisted that you can reach virtue only through your feelings, whilst I have maintained that virtue is only virtue as it proceeds from a rectified and powerful will."
"Yes; that really has bothered me; you are right, I know; yours is the ideal thing; but so much of me, really, the best part of me, I think, is left out in your scheme."
"That is it; can any philosophy be complete which does not recognise man's feelings, his emotions? What do you say to this--that beauty and truth are one in essence, identical; that beauty is the visible sign or sacrament of truth?"
"Go on; I do not see how it works."
"In this way; you look at a picture; grace of form, harmony of colour steal into your very soul; your feelings are stirred; you are enraptured. Now, according to the old school, this emotion serves no purpose, is a mere distraction to the man struggling after perfection; but our glorious Schiller has raised the veil; he--he, the Archimeded of the soul, has found a lever to lift the world! In gazing upon beauty you are apprehending truth; it is feeding you through the senses as bread through the mouth. What goes into you as beauty comes out of you as virtue; even as you gaze for the delight of your eye, you grow good."
Pauli heard these words with some such intoxication of feeling as that of a woman who listens to the tale of a long-desired love; he became physically giddy, unsteady, incapable for a minute or two of speech, as he took in this gospel whose fitness appeared to him to vindicate its truth. Young man as he still was, for years had he hungered and thirsted after righteousness, and he was not filled. Worse, until of late the vision of perfection had ever appeared to be within measurable distance; but the goal receded as his horizon widened, and it was by this sudden overpowering revulsion of feeling that Max perceived how near he had been to despair. Dear as Winndt was, Max was unwilling to lay himself bare to his friend, and the latter had tact enough not to see the flushing and paling which told of the depth of feeling he had stirred.
"Tell me more; what has Schiller done?"
"You must read the aesthetic letters; see how he vindicates for the feelings their true place in the education of mankind. He goes so far as to say that 'the culture of the feelings is the great necessity, because the way to the head is through the heart alone.' Read Die Kunstler, and see how it is only 'through the morning gate of the beautiful that man can enter into truth.' More, 'What we here feel as beauty we shall come to know as truth.' Gaze your fill, my Max! Let that sensitive beauty-loving temperament of thine have free play. Open thine eyes to beauty, open thine ears to harmony, and never more name thy joy self-indulgence; thus shall a beautiful soul revolve in its sphere, emanating light as it goes. Old Pythagoras was right; harmony is the law of the spheres. That way perfection lies, and see how easy and natural is the virtue we thought was the purchase of strenuous effort. What further proof would we have? Is not every great discovery in physics a revelation of the ease and simplicity of natural law? Are not tortuous ways ever the ways of ignorance and incapacity? Feed on the beautiful and you become good, for beauty and truth are one. Where is there a simpler formula, or one that better covers the needs of man and the facts of life?"
The young men walked on with hearts too full for speech. Nothing is so distressful in youth as a deadlock; and juster ideas of the scope of "virtue" and bitter sense of failure had brought Winndt, as well as Max, to the verge of the fear that no more was possible to him. And, here, was there not a vista opened to endless possibilities of progress and beautiful living?
To the reader who conceives that a young man's sole thought is of "getting on," that the drama of life begins and ends for him with that course of true love which never does run smooth, let us confess that we are but telling a twice told tale, the true story--as some of our readers no doubt have found out--of a true man's life lived a hundred years ago. Nor are we careful to exercise the prerogative of the story-teller, and transfer the interest from the inward drama to outer incidents. The world will probably return more and more to the old conception of a single anchor and a chorus as the fittest representation of the drama of life. What is an incident after all but that which cuts across, happens, casually interrupts the deeper life? We may some day find out that the career fullest of incidents has had the least in it of living; and that every soul, not excepting even the inherently vulgar soul, has laid up on it the task of finding out why it is here and what it is for.
At last Pauli broke the silence, which was in truth that closest communion to which are not necessary.
"Oh, brother! I see it all. Let us become good men, drawn ever more and more within the magic circle of the moral and the beautiful. Drinking in the beautiful we shall give out goodness, and thus we, in our turn, shall influence others. At last I understand our great Goethe; self-culture is in truth the highest morality, for in proportion as we take in beauty do we give it out, do we beautify and reform the world. How glorious to be a man! How exquisite is life when mere delightful living is as the giving out of sun's light for the healing of the world!"
And the two embraced, with this new ardour of beautiful living upon them.
Sleeping that night? No; there is such a thing as spiritual inebriation, the mind in which condition is most intensely awake. Max went to bed according to custom--what a difference, by the way, between his present comfortable quarters, with oak writing-table and all, and that little attic in Harzig--but after two or three hours of exuberant living he leapt out of bed to unbosom himself anew to Winndt, this time in a letter.
"You cannot, my friend, measure the greatness of my debt to you. You have saved me from the worst degradation--a life of hypocrisy. I despaired of myself while I was striving in vain to become virtuous by the sacrifice of all feeling, spiritual as well as sensuous. Constantly failing in my purpose, I lived in constant dread that the men I loved should find out my weakness and despise me for it. Where was I to look for help? What help could there be for one who must needs tear out of his nature all that is peculiar to him if virtue is indeed the prize of the cold and unimpassioned? And now, what have you done for me? You have given me back myself. The very feelings I have trampled on you have shown are the avenues to that morning gate of the beautiful to which you have led me. How I bless you for this emancipation! And in making a free man of me you have made a true man; for how is a man to be true who seeks to repudiate his nature, and live as though he were that which he knows himself not to be?"
The young men, Pauli, Winndt, and the little circle of their special friends, set themselves to work to beat out a path and set up finger-posts for their guidance in what it pleased them to call "the new life." If beauty were to be as the meat and drink of their moral being, it followed that the beautiful must be taken into their existence day by day, like daily bread. Now, when you come to think how much there is of sordid and commonplace in the lives of most of us, you will see that "With all thy getting get beauty," is a precept not to be followed out without a good deal of careful forethought. Night after night and far into the night the little Verein of friends worked, unaware of the unloveliness of the atmosphere, laden with fumes of tobacco and beer, in which they sat. Max, who had failed to accustom himself to the virile accomplishments, found it horrid, but blamed his own want of manhood. We say worked, not talked, for they constituted themselves a committee, with minute-book and the rest of it, to inquire into "The possibilities which exist for introducing Beauty into the Daily Lives of Busy Men"--meaning, of course, themselves; busy men without money, they soon found it necessary to add, because their inquiries had not led them far before they perceived that beauty, in many of its forms, is a costly product. Here they found themselves on the threshold of a new inquiry; if the moral life must be sustained upon beauty, then, cheap art for the people ranked first amongst the needs of a nation. Max's heart burned within him. The illustrations of books--what might not be done by this means? Think of Albrecht Durer in every German home! Here was a thing to live for--and he did live for it with great results; in this respect, anyway, Europe owes much to-day to the aesthetic impulse which stirred "Young Germany" a hundred years ago. But pictures, sculpture--we have need of them, but they cover only a small part of life; all form should be graceful, all colouring harmonious, all grouping artistic. And here the young men found themselves brought up before a new difficulty. It was easy to generalise, and pleasant and comforting to say fine things; but when it came to "for example," it was discomfiting to find that the good taste with which everyone knows himself endowed is helpful along the line only of things accustomed. But when it dawns upon you that all your patterns, and colours, and shapes are ugly, incapable of infusing the happy emotion which belongs to beauty--that you must begin on new lines altogether--why, then you find yourself at see without rudder or compass. Such, anyway, was the experience of this sage committee. Max was amazed to discover that, not only was he unable to devise beauty, but was incapable of discerning the subtle essence. There was a new alphabet to be learned, an aesthetic culture to be acquired, before he could begin to fill his life with loveliness. And this was as well, for though two or three of the men were in a position to "pick up a trifle" now and then, Max must needs go without such food for the inner life as had to be paid for in current coin. But talk costs nothing, and it was glorious to talk into existence a new order, where the children should be so reared in the midst of harmonies of form and colour that all loveliness of living should exude from them naturally, as perfume from a rose.
There were opportunities, even in Hamburg; and our friends would pose in pairs before an "Annunciation" of Fra Angelico, a "Nativity" of Fra Filippo Lippi in one of the churches, before a picturesque peep of the old town, a peach on a fruiterer's stall, with deliberate air and rapt regard, not of the critic, but of the devotee; which thing beholding, the little boys of Hamburg thought it fun to go and do likewise.
Better and easier than all, there was literature, chiefly poetry, and, chief amongst the poets, Goethe and Schiller; and to cull, morning by morning, one exquisite idea, one delicious figure, for gestation during the day, was a binding law on the members of the little society, which had already dubbed itself the Schiller Verein. Their meetings, held at first every Thursday, came to be nightly; and truly a fine thing it was to go home with your head among the stars, and your possible and future self shining as they in the beauty with which you should have fulfilled your being! It was delightful overnight, but the next morning, even after careful culling of a phrase which fell like music on the ear, Max had reason to suspect that the new life was harder than the old, and that Beauty, with her siren softness, was a worse mistress than Philosophy. Kieger took him to task, said he neglected his work, gave himself airs which the others would not stand, looked a "sentimental idiot."
"What's the matter? Are you in love? If so, get out of it, or look for another berth. I cannot afford to keep an asylum for lunatics at my private cost."
(To be continued.)
Typed by Blossom Barden, Mar 2013